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If you have a New Year's resolution of staying calmer in the car and not falling victim to the red driving mist known as road rage, Nationwide Vehicle Contracts offer you some ideas as to how you help you keep it.

Road rage is not a good thing to be an instigator of, let alone a victim. According to WikiHow, road rage is a criminal offence - or can be if part of the rage involves driving aggressively and recklessly with or without intent to cause harm.

So what can we do to avoid the red mist falling, and finding ourselves screaming at other drivers, or causing them injury with our vehicle?

Stay calm

One thing you can do is make the cabin of your car a peaceful and happy place to be, helping you to stay calm and positive. If you are calm whilst driving, you will be more accepting of others' faults when they happen in front of you. Staying calm will also allow you to anticipate more and realise that incidents that may involve other motorists or pedestrians may happen. Listening to happy music or even listening to an audio book (especially on long commutes and trips) is advised.

Allow time for the journey

Nothing is going to make for an angry and tensed-up driver than having to rush the journey and setting off knowing that you are late is akin to shortening a fuse on a firework. You will become impatient with other drivers who are not aware that you are late (despite your waving arms, flashing lights and unheard shouting through a closed window or windscreen) so leave with plenty of time. This will allow you to relax and even enjoy the journey.

Drive easy

Don't grip the steering wheel too tight. Gripping it like you want to kill it is aggressive and if you find that you are clenching the wheel, relax your grip, and drive easy. It will make controlling the car easier too. Try to use cruise control, if you have it. Your right leg needs an occasional break, using cruise control in situations where you can drive safely at the same speed for extended periods of time will make you less stressed.

Breathe

If you find yourself getting tense or anxious, take a deep breath. If you need to, roll the window down a bit to take in some outside, fresh air to help calm you down.

Keep your car clean

You may not be aware of it, but driving in a cluttered car can be very stressful, so keep the interior as clean as possible, especially in the footwells. Clutter can cause accidents if you step in something that shouldn't be there when you are changing gear, accelerating or breaking and trying to see through a dirty windscreen or rear window cab cause anxiety and stress too - so keep plenty of windscreen cleaner topped up.

Taking a break if you need to

Tiredness can be a killer - in more ways than one. Falling asleep at the wheel is dangerous for all, but trying to plough on through tiredness can cause you to become irritable and less tolerant of others' deficiencies, so find a safe place to pull over and park, then get out and walk around for a few minutes until you feel more calm.

The key word here is SAFE. Don't pull into the hard shoulder of a motorway, find a service station and never pull over on the side of a busy street or highway.

It is advised that drivers should not drive for more than 3 hours at a time, though many do. If you find yourself on one of those long road trips, make sure that you get enough rest before you drive, and during the journey too.

Taking a detour

Planning your trip in advance will help reduce stress levels, but we can always seem to find roadworks and construction zones in the way, and depending on time of day, rush-hour traffic or school runs. This stress will manifest itself usually in road rage, so try and find alternative routes if you are aware of the congestion. Use your Sat Nav to check them out.

Avoiding other car challenges

It can be easy, especially when you are young or driving a sporty car, to get drawn into a contest with another driver - but remember you aren't in "Fast and Furious". Other drivers may want to dodge in and out of traffic and change lanes trying to pass you, with some even passing you and then slowing down deliberately to play games with you. Keep your distance and don't join in. Don't get all het up about it - it's their passive-aggressiveness that is the problem, not yours.

Avoid distractions

Talking on a non-hands-free phone, texting, and other distracting actions such as doing make-up is not only dangerous, and illegal, but also very distracting. This, in turn, will make you react adversely to any sudden actions you may have to take to avoid other motorists, possibly fuelling your road rage.

Talk to your Doctor 

According to WikiHow, "some doctors believe that a condition known as Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED) is responsible for road rage in certain people." They advise that you should "speak to your doctor if you continually experience feelings of anger or aggression, or have difficulty controlling your temper or your behaviour"

Turn the music down

Not all music is calming and 'happy-making', so be careful what you are playing. There is an argument that suggests that "aggressive music makes people aggressive" (according to Edmunds.com) so try and listen, as we suggested earlier to slower music and/or an audiobook if you want to avoid road rage rising.

Churchill Insurance also advise to "Avoid listening to music with a heavy bass while driving and have it at a reasonable volume. Remember that you need to focus on what you’re doing, it’s important not to be preoccupied with other things."

Think about other drivers

If another driver cuts you up or brakes erratically, before you jump to conclusions that they are targeting you specifically, take a couple of seconds to think that they aren't. Maybe they are oblivious to it all, or maybe they have just made a mistake. You can bet your bottom dollar that it is not aimed at you specifically...so chill out.

Remember simple courtesies

Dr. Leon James, of the book 'Road Rage and Aggressive Driving', quoted on Edmunds.com, says that "remembering simple courtesies, like allowing someone to merge or apologizing when we make a mistake, can go a long way in making the driving experience positive for ourselves and others. His basic motto is the old "do unto others" rule: Treat fellow drivers how you would like to be treated."

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